Seven Legendary Halloween Characters (and the Pumpkins to Match)
Something wicked this way carves—each of our etched pumpkins features an infamous creature from fairy tales, folklore, or literature. These ghosts, goblins, and other fantastical fiends tend to emerge after dark and are rarely seen, except by the glow of candlelight. Menacing though they may be, don't hesitate to invite them into your home—they make haunting additions to this season's décor.
Halloween, despite its history as a trick-or-treating holiday, originally arose from a confluence of pagan, Celtic, and Christian superstitions and tales of lore. And these tales birthed quite a few characters who are icons up to this day. Browse through any library and you will read about these familiar fiends: Goblins and trolls are always up to no good (in a Dutch fairy tale, the former are known for creeping into homes to disturb humans' slumber; while in Scandinavian folklore, the latter tend to lurk under bridges as they sit awaiting passersby to eat). Vampires—from the time of ancient civilizations to 19th-century horror novels—are bloodsucking spirits that only make their appearance under the shroud of nightfall. Meanwhile, witches—in the Grimm fairy tales, modern movies, and television—are immediately recognized by their evil, cackling laughter. As for the Devil himself, he grants a scholar named Faust boundless knowledge in exchange for his soul.
With our carving how-to and templates as your guides, use a linoleum cutter to carve out each character. Once they're let loose on All Hallows' Eve, these ghoulish gourds are sure to become legends in their own right.
Endlessly seeking deals to strike, the horned and bearded Devil sneaks up to earth, where he lures unsuspecting humans over to the dark side. In his most infamous pact, the Devil grants a scholar named Faust boundless knowledge in exchange for his soul. Display the Devil by himself on your doorstep—this strong character shines even without a supporting cast.
Witches in the Grimm fairy tales are certainly evil: locking Hansel in a cage, poisoning Snow White with an apple. But perhaps no witch is as iconically wicked as the one from the West: The Wizard of Oz's witch set the standard for broom-clutching, green-skinned hideousness. Carved onto a "Long Island Cheese" pumpkin, this graphic, skirt-trailing sorceress looks as if she's perched to take flight from this stool.
In a Dutch fairy tale, tiny, sooty goblins creep into homes to disturb humans' slumber. To stop these night terrors, the men of one town chase the creatures until daybreak. (Sunlight turns the imps to stone.) In Hans Christian Andersen's stories, goblins are greedy squatters that desire delicacies. Stack these feisty little rascals along with mushroom-strewn pumpkins, so they appear to be taking a romp through the woods.
Ugly, scraggly-haired giants, the trolls of Scandinavian folklore lurk under bridges, awaiting passersby to eat. But never fear, even the most notorious troll—the menace from "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" —is easily outsmarted: Each goat convinces him to wait for something more delicious. A green hue is fitting for a troll. Look for Jarrahdale pumpkins or kabocha squashes at your local nursery.
Long before suave and beautiful vampires (like the charismatic Dracula) were brought to light by 19th-century horror novels, ancient civilizations were drawing bloodsucking spirits on pieces of pottery. Modern-day vampire-mania proves that the appeal is still very much alive. Keep this vampire locked up in your castle; in the evenings, set him in a window to cast an ominous glow over the neighborhood.
The Headless Horseman
This reappearing figure in folklore is most memorable in Washington Irving's rendition of the tale. A former Revolutionary War soldier, the specter stalks the battlefield where he died and searches for his lost head. Sleepy Hollow's schoolteacher, Ichabod Crane, thinks he encounters the ghost (actually his rival, playing a prank), who hurls his "head" (a pumpkin) at Crane. Nod to Crane's profession by placing the carving on a child-size school chair. A large, round pumpkin is the ideal canvas for this showstopper.
Chained to earth by tragedies in their lives, ghosts are the disgruntled souls of the departed. Ghosts that die tragically often return: In Shakespeare's Hamlet, the deceased king haunts his son, begging the prince to avenge his murder. Don't stop at one ghost-adorned white "Lumina" pumpkin; let a pair haunt your house. After all, misery does love company.
Step 1: Cut a Hole
All of the pumpkins were carved using the same basic technique. Etching with a linoleum cutter makes it easy to carve detailed designs—and the finished gourds glow with an eerie orange light. If you plan to illuminate your carved pumpkin with a battery-powered votive, use a keyhole saw to cut a hole in the base of the gourd. If you'd prefer to use a candle, remove the top of the pumpkin so smoke can escape.
Step 2: Hollow Out the Pumpkin
Using a fleshing tool or a large metal spoon, scoop out the seeds and pulp. Make the inner walls thinner by scraping some of the flesh; this will allow more light to shine through the carved design.
Step 3: Transfer the Template
Print the template; tape it to the pumpkin. Using a sharp awl or a pushpin, poke holes at close intervals around the design. Remove the template. If desired, connect holes with a pen or grease pencil to define the outline.
Step 4: Carve the Creature
Using the holes (or pen line) as a guide, create the design's outline with a narrow-blade linoleum cutter. Use a wider blade to remove flesh within the design. To carve in relief, etch the outline, then carve out the background.